Astride our camels
So how dangerous can they be when the little boy pushes between two of them?
Wikipedia says there are well over 3 million nomads in Mongolia, still living in gers and following the herds. They live close to nature and are learning to share their way of life with tourists. This adds some ready cash to buy staples and supplement their income. They have added motorcycles, trucks, cars and TVs to their way of life. Children must go to school and usually board there except for holidays and summer break.
As we got closer to the dunes we saw more camels.
We were looking forward to our camel ride. The Mongolian Bactrian camel has two humps and stands six to seven and a half feet tall at the hump. The humps are fat and stand tall when the animal is well hydrated and tilt or slump when they need more water. They can drink up to 30 gallons of water at a time, and then go for a month without water. They have tough mouths so they can munch on spikey desert shrubs. Most of the 1.4 million camels in Mongolia are domesticated and are a long term investment since they live up to 50 years. Pregnancy lasts thirteen
months and they have one to two calves every two years. The nomads use them for travel, they can carry huge loads, but they also milk them and eat them. They use the wool for blankets and ropes and clothing. The wool naturally falls off during the summer, in huge sheets. There are perhaps 600 wild camels that are smaller and are on the critically endangered list. Soko said the nomads hunt them for meat.
In the late afternoon of the seventh day we met our
camels. The camels had shed most of their hair and their skin was very sensitive so we were all told to wear long pants and socks so our skin did not touch them. Our guide for the camel trek chose our mounts according to our experience and Joanna mounted her camel first. I was given the reins to her animal, then I mounted mine. The rest of our group lined up behind one another, holding the reins of the animal behind them. We rode on heavy woven pads and rudimentary stirrups were adjusted to our leg length, like horseback riding. There was a large carved pick through the camel’s nose which
No, they are just taking a break...or are we taking a break?
was attached to the rein.
I did not have the feeling of height I usually experience when riding horseback, perhaps because the camel is so broad or maybe because the terrain is so vast. I was nervous about having Joanna’s mount on a short lead with his huge mouth so close to my leg. He never tried to bite but he snorted continually, spraying me liberally. Our young guide sang to himself as we rode toward the dunes. We followed a dirt track for a while, then slogged through the marsh and onto the dunes. The camels’ feet are huge. They have two toes that spread till the feet are as big as dinner plates, well designed to walk the shifting sand. It was very quiet and peaceful once we settled into the rhythm of the trip.
After a short distance on the dunes we dismounted for a break, giving us a perfect opportunity to take some photos. Jogi’s camel was the most beautiful, but Inga’s was the cutest, giving us a big smile whenever there was a camera trained her way. The camels have beautiful large eyes with long thick eyelashes. These are
She smiled every time we pointed a camera at her.
great protection from blowing sand. Their nostrils also seal shut during sand storms.
Shortly before we got back to camp our guide let us have our own reins. It was fun, turning our mount this way and that, just like a horse. We mounted and dismounted on the left side also, but when the animal knelt you had to adjust your weight by leaning way forward or back ward to prevent tumbling off head over heels. Even with that half hour break I found that camel riding is seriously hard on the fanny. It was not painful while riding, but the next day we all had reminders of our short journey. The trip was about two hours including the break.
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